There were two Churches of Christ in the small north Texas town. The church where I ministered had split from the older church years before over some petty differences.
I was beginning a sermon series on the "One-another" passages of the Bible, when Gabe, a former elder, got up and walked up to the pulpit and said, "Fred, do you trust me?" Confused as to why he interrupted my lesson to ask if I trusted him, I warily said "Yes". Gabe then asked to speak with the congregation. I relinquished the pulpit and sat down.
I’m unable to recall the exact words, but in essence Gabe pointed out a lack of love that permeated our congregation. Then he requested that we get up and hug one of our brothers or sisters. No one moved
Raising his voice he pleaded, "Do you hear me? Please go hug one of your brothers or sisters and say "I love you." Immediately I jumped up and ran to the song leader and hugged him. Almost everyone else followed suit.
"Okay," he said, "now let’s go across town and tell our brothers and sisters at the other church that we love them, too.’ No one moved
Returning to the pulpit I said, "I was going to present a lesson on strengthening Christian relationships this morning, but brother Gabe did a much better job than I could have. Let’s get into our cars and tell our brothers and sisters across town that we love them."
The majority of the congregation got into their vehicles and headed toward the downtown church. As the long procession began, someone commented to Tom, our Family Involvement Minister, that it looked as if someone had died and we were going to a funeral. "We are going to a funeral," Tom astutely replied. "We are dying to ourselves"
During the invitation song Gabe came forward and requested to speak to the congregation. He told the assembly that there had been hard feelings between the two churches since the split. He said we had come to let them know that we love them and want full fellowship once again.
We sang the song: Blest Be the Tie That Binds, and closed with a prayer.
After the "Amen," almost everyone in the building started embracing each other. I overheard comments like:
"I’m sorry for the way we have been acting."
"Let’s forget the past."
"I have done you wrong. Will you please forgive me?"
Tears. Laughter. Hugs and kisses. Hearts opened. Offenses forgiven. Grudges forgotten. Bitterness melted. Barriers destroyed. Hatred dissipated. Love permeated.
One could truly feel and see the effects of the Holy Spirit moving through that little church all because of the efforts of one man who dared to step out on faith even when he was afraid.
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